Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

The Latin Legacy                   341
The negative value of ne in the combinations in this list infected its
bedfellows, which lost their original meaning and are now used only
as negative particles. Two of them, mie and goutte, eventually disap-
peared Two others, pas and point, have survived By the sixteenth
century it was the rule to use one of them in any negative statement.
To-day the most common form is ne-pas, and ne-point is only for
emphasis. If ne is accompanied by another negative such as personne
(nobody), nen (nothing), or jamais (never), the latter replace pas or
point> eg il ne me visite jamais (he never looks me up) In popular
French the process has gone further. While in Old French the pas was
more often omitted than not, you now hear French people drop the
emasculated ne and s&yj'aime pas ga (I don't like it), or zl dort pas (he
doesn't sleep) The French particle ne also keeps company with que and
guere in a sense which does not imply negation When que replaces pas, it
signifies only, e g. je rfai que deux sous (I have only a penny) When
guere takes its place, it means scarcely, e g je ne la connais guere (I hardly
know her) Corresponding to the French ne . que for only we have the
Italian non , .. die.
If we recall the wide range of only in English (p 274) this construction
should not puzzle us As an adverb only, or its equivalent merely, involves
a qualified negative It implies 720 more (and no less) than, no "better than
or not . . with the exception Thus a Frenchman says zl rfa qu'un oeil
(he has no more than one eye, he has only one eye) cxje ne bots qu'aux
repas (I don't drink except at meals, I only drink at meals) This
adverbial use of only in Romance as in Teutonic (p. 274) languages is
quite distinct from that of the adjectival only meaning sole, solitary,
single, alone, or unique For only as adjective we have seul(e) or less
common, unique in French, solo or umco in Italian (Spanish solo or
School-book knowledge of Latin does not always help us to link up
a Romance word with its Latin forerunner As a living language, Latin
had a large stock of words which classical authors never used. Where
they would write equus for horse, iter for journey, os for mouth, ignis
for fire, comedere for eat, a citizen of the Empire would say caballus
(French cheval, Spanish cdballo, Italian cavallo), viaticum (French
voyage, Spanish vtaje, Italian viaggio], buca (French bouche, Spanish
boca, Italian bocca); focus (French feu, Spanish fuego, Italian fuoco),
manducare^ lit to chew (French manger, Italian mangiare) In the
school-books the Latin woid for house is domus, which was the name
for the house of the well-to-do. Beside it Latin had casa, which